Manufactured Housing Institute Lobbying Clouded by New Controversy

June 27, 2017

  • “Pay more attention to what people do than what they say,” - MHI award-winner, Marty Lavin
  • Manufactured Housing Institute Lobbying Clouded by New Controversy

    The Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) has created its own controversy, on the eve of their much ballyhooed “Legislative Fly-In” for lobbying members of Congress in Washington, D.C.  

    Two of that manufactured home industry trade association’s senior staffers were allegedly involuntarily terminated, days prior to their event, as was first reported by the Daily Business News, at this link here.

    The Arlington, VA based trade group has removed the names of former Vice Presidents Lois Starkey, and Tom Heinemann from their staff roster, but would not answer questions as to the cause of the two departures.

    While the MHI Executive Committee members presumably know, queries to several other MHI board members and state association executives revealed that many were in the dark about the staff changes.  “I don’t know. If so, I didn’t hear. If I hear something, I will let you know,” read one email to MHProNews.

    I have not heard. As long as she’s [Lois Starkey] been there I can’t see her quitting without sending some communication out. Obviously, she was rushed out regardless,” said another message.

    Sources suggested to MHProNews.com that Lesli Gooch – Senior VP, a Ph.D. and failed Republican candidate for Congress – demanded and got the two former MHI vice presidents' terminations.

    There was also friction reported between MHI President, Richard A. Jennison, and VP Starkey.

    Starkey was involved in the more technical side of the federally regulated HUD Code for manufactured housing. Sources say that while work-arounds are possible, not having that kind of experience on staff for a technical role is troubling.

    Starkey also is said to have had perhaps the most total tenure with MHI, outside of their educational affiliate. 

    Some of the current VPs have only 1 to 3 years with the association.  Their president, Richard A. “Dick” Jennison, has just over 5 years with MHI. 

    Comparing those tenures to manufactured housing industry state associations, or the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), places MHI senior staff among the least experienced association people in the industry.

    Terminations – Signaling an MHI Pivot Regarding HUD? 

    Sources are also saying that under growing pressure from grassroots elements of the industry, that MHI might be relenting on asking the Trump Administration for a new administrator over the HUD’s Manufactured Housing Program.  HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson would be the agency's top person over that department. The manufactured housing program is currently led by Pamela Beck Danner, JD.

    Commenting on Starkey, one source told MHProNews that “She [Lois] and Pamela Danner appeared to be tight. Pamela always went straight to her at any event and would generally see them leaving to go have dinner together.”

    Several industry voices have been calling for a change at the leadership of the HUD Code manufactured home program, including an MHI award-winning retailer, Doug Gorman.

    Mark Weiss, President and CEO of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), MHProNews editorially, and even voices from within MHI have called for a new program administrator to replace Danner, as part of a necessary changes the industry is seeking at HUD.

    MHARR has accused HUD of being out of compliance with federal law on several issues. MHARR’s leadership has also said that MHI ‘goes along to get along’ with HUD, which hurts independent producers, perhaps to the indirect benefit of larger ones.  That Washington, D.C. based trade rival to MHI says that while they are representing HUD Code manufactured home producers, the harm being done applies to communities, retailers, suppliers, and all those who want to see the industry grow more rapidly.

    One rumor is that Starkey – who has some history with Danner – and Heinemann, who was formerly with HUD – were in part being swept away to make room for a shift on MHI policy regarding keeping or replacing Danner.  That could not be confirmed, as of publication time.

    The Fly-In Agenda’s Featured Focus Itself is Doubtful

    MHProNews has previously reported that third party research reveals that MHI’s plan for reforming Dodd-Frank is unlikely to pass. Their bill, dubbed Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing, has been through 3 prior congressional cycles, having failed to pass it each time. The most recent reports on that topic, are linked here and here.

    For the report on the two MHI terminations, along with related controversies at MHI, click the link here.

    For commentary on this incident, framed in the context of the need to reform the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), click here.

    For MHARR’s position on their call to replace Danner, click this link here. ##

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